The readers speak on Adam Sandler, and then some

That settles it! I was dead wrong on Adam Sandler, movie comedy and life in general.

Enough of my yakkin', as Rob Reiner says in the opening of "This is Spinal Tap." It's time for yours.

Earlier this week I wrote about Adam Sandler's weirdly consistent track record of denigrating all sorts of ethnic groups across various movies. The hook was last week's incident of Native American performers walking off the set of his Western spoof "The Ridiculous 6." The Tribune column provoked my favorite sort of reader response: the multi-headed Hydra, representing nine points of view or thereabouts.

Plenty of the emails, tweets and online Tribune comments had no use for what they took as the "crybaby," "p------ and moaning," "insanely whiny" tenor of the commentary. "Quit your job," suggested a reader, adding: "I got news for you old man, nobody under 35 would want to sit through (crud) like 'Citizen Kane.'"

Here's another take, from Tony White of Downers Grove. "I am in no way a fan of Adam Sandler, but he appears to have an audience and has every right to make garbage movies. The only thing that will stop him is poor box office returns. I think Mel Brooks is a comic genius but 'Blazing Saddles' has probably the most hurtful ethnic stereotypes ever. For whatever reason that gets a pass. Let's be fair. Almost all critics hate Sandler because of his lazy lowbrow humor, but let's not give a pass to others who did the same and are now revered by Hollywood."

This brings up a complicated point that begins with a simple one: A lot of people are crazy about "Blazing Saddles," always have been, always will be. Brooks is a comic hero of mine, though parts of "Blazing Saddles" (not my favorite — not compared to "Young Frankenstein") walks a thin line between exploding racial and ethnic stereotypes for the right kind of laughs, and exploiting them for dubious ones.

"I wonder," asked the online commenter "conservativemaster," "what the reaction would be if Mel Brooks made 'Blazing Saddles' in 2015?"

My online reply and confession earlier this week: "I'd be pretty good with 'Blazing Saddles' anytime. For better or worse I've known the lyrics to 'The French Mistake' by heart since I was 15."

For another online commenter, SuzySnowflake, it's a question of who's in on the joke. "True satire comes from speaking from within a culture that one inhabits and understands ... Sandler is 'punching down' a group that he isn't a part of. Steve Martin's satire 'Bowfinger' was brilliant because it made fun of Hollywood. 'Blazing Saddles' was brilliant because it dealt with minority identity in Hollywood Westerns. Sandler isn't trying to create from within, he's trying to paste together things from genres he doesn't understand."

From online commenter larry_website: "Sandler's either a very big hypocrite or too stupid to realize that he reinforces damaging stereotypes in his movies. My money's on the latter. The racism of 'Blended' was truly appalling to see in this day and age; it's as if Sandler's mind is back in the '60s and he believes these stereotypes."

Many readers bristled at the commentary's phrase "unexamined white male privilege." "The idea," writes John Campbell, "that white men have some unique requirement, based on skin color, to soul-search about the supposed advantages of their whiteness is, in and of itself, racist. And it is no less racist when written by a white male newspaper columnist. ... I don't mind your calling out Sandler. But this idea that his whiteness places a requirement of basic decency and respect for which others, people of color, are excused? That seems to me to be a form of intellectual or artistic apartheid."

Meantime, on Twitter, I got zinged by an Alabama talk-radio host (that "inane moral crusader piece," Dale Jackson called it) and un-zinged by Meara Brady ("articulates everything I feel about Adam Sandler but couldn't place. Great piece!!")

So, back and forth, up and down, hate and love. I'll take it all.

Regarding "Avengers: Age of Ultron": "Good review mate," tweeted Simon Waite from Australia. "I gave it 2.5 stars myself but was more disappointed in it." Countering that mixed review, a particularly angry "Avengers" fan wrote: "You artsy movie reviewers are out of touch with humanity. Americans want to escape to gun and action at the movies, not some progressive Hollywood producer trying to shove his view of morality down our throats. Way to add to making newsprint irrelevant."

Doing what I can, pal.

Finally, on the subject of last week's column on the topic of tear-jerkers, this from Pat Solari: "Michael, just finished reading your hilarious take on blubberfest movies. But then you mentioned 'The Black Stallion.' I went to see it six times in the theatre by myself ... thanks for loving it too. And now I forgive you for sending me and my husband from Elmwood Park up to Evanston, an hour's drive, to see the worst picture of the year, 'Mr. Turner.'"

And from Nancy Cibula: "Mr. Phillips, the words blurred through my tears reading this morning's article. The memory of 'The Black Stallion' and those scenes on the beach make me cry every time, in a good way. I look forward to my Friday morning Trib every week to see what you have to say."

Right-o. I'll keep it up, then.

mjphillips@tribpub.com

Twitter @phillipstribune

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